Commonwealth and Council

The Shore is Still in the Sea

Jeanine Oleson


Commonwealth & Council presents a performance and exhibition of new work by New York based artist Jeanine Oleson. “The shore is still in the sea” is Oleson’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. 

No stone is left unturned as Oleson prepares a new body of work. In fact, to stretch the metaphor to almost translucent thinness, each stone is not only turned, but collected and tossed in a tumbling machine until all spill out, not shined, but magnetized and susceptible to unexpected affinities. The stones for “The shore is still in the sea” were primarily collected from Arctic climes and contain trace elements of fatalistic optimism, false utopias, risk societies, apocalyptic narratives and anxieties, image subversion, visual obstacles, well-oiled conspiracies, yawing borders, and futile epistemology. These elements reconfigure through Oleson’s multi-media approach into image scrolls, photographs, cyanotypes, sculpture and performance.

 Oleson challenges the authority and classic forms of image-making by stacking images on paper scrolls. Two outdated telephones silently await callers, the doors of a seed bank appear rusted shut and repellant to hopes of replanting, NASA satellites bloom like heavy white flowers in the sun, thick power lines interrupt Ansel Adams-esque landscapes, and black cloth obscures Oleson in there-but-not-there self-portraits. In grouping these images together, Oleson disables the definitive statement made by an isolated image and asks the viewer to draw their own narratives and conclusions. A large-scale photograph inhabits a single sheet of paper, spliced by Oleson’s hand – the surface disrupted by a large incision that separates land and water, solid and not solid, known and not known, inside the image and outside the image – highlighting the arbitrariness of these delineations. “The shore is still in the sea” also presents a series of cyanotypes marrying early photographic innovations with reproductions of found images of sun flares, northern lights, black holes, quasars; the simple process of cyanotype contrasting the complex and high cost processes involved in producing the content. The sculpture and performance literally render Oleson’s hand and voice in the exhibition and provide a clear definition and working sense of the relationships between and beyond the concepts and specific sites of the images. Involving smoke machines, survival blankets and a disembodied communication, the performance is Oleson’s attempt to “bridge a linguistic space of survival and optimistic futility.”

 Jeanine Oleson was born in Astoria, OR and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Rutgers University, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Oleson’s work has been included in exhibitions at Beta-Local, San Juan, PR; MOMA/PS1, Queens, NY; X-Initiative, NY; Grand Arts, Kansas City, MO; Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY; L.A.C.E., Los Angeles; Monya Rowe Gallery, NY; Samson Projects, Boston; Participant, Inc., NY; Pumphouse Gallery, London; and Art in General, NY. Oleson is an Assistant Professor of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons the New School for Design. To view past projects and learn about upcoming performances, visit